The Patrick Rehab-Wellness Center now offers VitalStim therapy for patients who have been diagnosed with dysphasia. Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. This difficulty can be caused by a stroke, neuromuscular disease processes such as Parkinson’s and ALS, Head and Neck Surgery or Cancer, and advanced age. Patients with dysphagia may aspirate food or liquid into their lungs or may experience muscle weakness that makes managing a normal diet difficult. As a result of this impaired swallowing ability, patients may end up with feeding restrictions that could greatly alter their quality of life.
VitalStim candidates may experience the following:
Coughing/Clearing their throat after swallowing
Decreased voice quality
Recurring chest infections
Difficulty completing a meal
Feeling of food stuck in the throat
Modified diet required (thickening, pureeing, soft solids)
Spilling food from the lips and/or drooling
If you suspect you or someone you love may be a candidate for VitalStim therapy, your physician must write a prescription for the therapy. A clinical evaluation will then be performed by Speech Language Pathologist or dysphagia specialist to determine whether or not you are a candidate for therapy.
Before VitalStim therapy, patients with dysphagia were treated with conventional speech therapy, oral exercises, and swallowing maneuvers. With VitalStim therapy, patients will receive a specialized form of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) designed to treat dysphagia by re-training the muscles in the throat. Small electrodes will be placed on the neck. A small carefully calibrated current will stimulate motor nerves in the throat while the patient practices swallowing exercises. With repeated exercises, the muscles in the throat are re-trained. Therapy sessions are repeated daily or almost daily until swallowing abilities are restored to the desired levels.
Jana Richardson is a Speech and Language Pathologist who has been VitalStim certified since 2004. With the addition of Jana to the team at Patrick, we can now provide this invaluable service to the community. VitalStim therapy has helped thousands of patients including those with feeding tubes. Improvement an often be seen in 6-20 daily sessions and sometimes as early as the 3rd session.
If you would like more information on VitalStim, please call Patrick Rehab-Wellness Center at 931-433-0273.